ERC has awarded a Synergy Grant to astrophysicist Conny Aerts

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© Kavli Price - Thomas Eckhoff

© Kavli Price - Thomas Eckhoff

The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded a prestigious Synergy Grant to KU Leuven astrophysicist Conny Aerts. As coordinating principal investigator, she joins forces with Stéphane Mathis (CEA Paris-Saclay) and Michel Rieutord (University of Toulouse) from France and with Aaron Dotter (Dartmouth College) from the USA. The four principal investigators receive almost 10 million euros for their project 4D-STAR, which will develop and deliver innovative numerical models of rotating magnetic stars in three spatial dimensions throughout their evolution.

ERC Synergy Grants of the EU’s research and innovation programme Horizon Europe, help groups of two to four outstanding researchers bringing together complementary skills, knowledge and resources in one ambitious overarching project, addressing some of the world’s most formidable research problems. The projects typically span multiple scientific disciplines - in the case of 4D-STAR astronomy, theoretical physics, fluid mechanics, applied mathematics, computer science and software development.

4D-stars

Stars are the source of radiation, chemistry, and life in the Universe. Given their fundamental role in astrophysics, a great deal of effort has gone into observing stars, both from the ground and from space. Space asteroseismology, also known as the study of starquakes with satellites, is providing transformational knowledge of the internal structure, evolution, dynamics, and magnetism of stars.  Yet, to deduce basic quantities of most of the objects in the Universe, like the age, chemical composition, and energy, almost all astrophysicists rely on simplified stellar models with just 1 spatial dimension, treating the star as if it were a perfect sphere. This approach, which neglects flattening of stars due to rotation or other multidimensional dynamical processes in their interior, gives an unstable foundation for astrophysics, introducing major uncertainties in stellar ages.  Accurate ages of stars are a dominant missing ingredient to understand stellar and planetary evolution, the emergence of life, and the chemistry in our Universe.

"With 4D-STAR, the four of us embark upon a long journey together, with the aim to offer a new solid foundation to astrophysics, by constructing 3-dimensional evolution models of rotating magnetic stars, calibrated by asteroseismology." says coordinating investigator Conny Aerts. As a leading figure of asteroseismology, she develops pioneering stellar models calibrated by observed starquakes to constrain rotation and mixing in stars. "This lifting of stellar models to higher dimensions is optimally started now, using asteroseismic data of thousands of stars in all dominant life phases." she continues.

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The ABC of ERC

The European Research Council (ERC) funds ground-breaking and innovative projects by Europe’s finest researchers through five types of grant:

Starting Grants

  • up to ¤1.5 million for 5 years
  • for promising early-career researchers with 2 to 7 years of post-PhD experience
  • Consolidator Grants

  • up to ¤2 million for 5 years
  • for excellent researchers with 7 to 12 years of post-PhD experience
  • Advanced Grants

  • up to ¤2.5 million for 5 years
  • for established researchers with a considerable academic track record
  • Proof of Concept

  • ¤150,000
  • for ERC grant holders to bring their research ideas closer to market
  • Synergy Grants

  • up to ¤10 million for 6 years


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